Recipe: No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is one that my husband loves and it comes to me, courtesy of my wonderful Mother-in-Law.  I have played with this recipe a bit, but try and make it as close to the original as possible, since it’s my husband’s favorite.  Everyone should have a favorite food that doesn’t get “edited” or “upgraded”, so this is the one recipe that I don’t change.  HOWEVER, if you are interested in making a few edits, this is a simple change you can make to include wine in your dessert.  NOTE: Lest my husband reads this post and worries that this year’s pie has wine… it doesn’t.  It *has* in the past, but it doesn’t this year.  NoBakePumpkinPie

Mom’s No-Bake Pumpkin Pie:

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use the Fat-free version)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope Knox brand geletin
  • 2 Tablespoons water **Here’s your substitution opportunity
  • 16 oz can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  1. Blend the sweetened condensed milk, egg, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand one minute.  Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves.
  3. Blend in milk mixture
  4. Stir over how heat until thickened, about 7-9 minutes.  Blend in pumpkin and mix well to incorporate.
  5. Pour into pie shell and chill for several hours.
  6. Cut and serve with Cool Whip.

NOTE:  I substituted James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay for the water last year.  The only major difference was that the gelatin/wine mixture became “like glue” for a bit until the heat allowed it to loosen and blend together.  I enjoyed the hint of Chardonnay in the background of the pumpkin pie but will use that for the baked pumpkin pie recipes that I use instead of using it for this recipe.   


Recipe: Raspberry Wine Taffy

What’s a girl to do when her college roommate gives her four bottles of good Raspberry Syrup? Why, create a recipe using the syrup and WINE, of course!

Armed with the fore-mentioned syrup, I decided to play in the kitchen today. I didn’t want to waste the syrup, so I thought I’d make a simple reduction of the syrup and red wine that would drizzle nicely over desserts. While my end product didn’t exactly meet my expectations, it definitely wasn’t a total loss… I ended up with Raspberry Wine Candies!

I decided to start small… I poured 1/2 cup raspberry syrup and 1 cup red wine into a small saute’ pan and allowed this mixture to simmer for awhile. Note: I used Boordy Vineyard’s Chambourcin Merlot for this recipe, but I could have easily used James River Cellars’ Meritage… I just had an extra bottle of the BoRaspberryWineTaffyordy wine and wanted to use it up. I allowed this syrup/wine mixture to simmer for about 30-45 minutes – I wasn’t paying close attention to the clock and I was simply cooking the mixture until it reduced significantly and started to look “thick”.

Once the mixture had cooked down to the look of a heavy syrup, I added a dash of salt and a teaspoon of margarine. I stirred these two additions into the mixture and allowed it to simmer a little longer.

At this point, I probably should have removed it from the stove and used it as a drizzle for pound cake or ice cream. Instead, I continued to cook it until it was even thicker and looked as if a spoon could leave a trail down the center of the pan. I removed the confection from the stove and poured it into the Pyrex measuring cup (as seen in photo) to find that the entire mixture had reduced from 1 1/2 cups of liquid to a scant 1/2 cup of confection. It tasted lovely, but I had no idea what to do with it… so I popped it into the fridge.

An hour in the fridge allowed this recipe to thicken so much that I could manhandle a small spoonful onto a piece of waxed paper and eventually eat it as a soft taffy… hence the recipe’s name. I’ve never intentionally made taffy before, but this is what I thought of when I tasted it.

Next time, I’ll stop cooking this mixture earlier and allow it to cool so it can be used as a flavorful topping for ice cream or pound cake (as I mentioned before)… but maybe not. It’s kind of fun to create something totally unexpected!

Here’s to the unexpected sweetness of life… may we all create more of it to share with others!

Recipe: Easy Chicken Divan

I was recently tasked with using our new Cabernet Franc Blanc wine (James River Cellars’ 2012 Montpelier) in a recipe and this fabulously easy recipe was the result.  It uses both Montpelier wine AND Monterey  Jack cheese in a sauce that has it’s beginnings in my childhood, so for me, this was a win-win recipe.  I hope you find it that way as well!


I started with a leftover chicken carcass that I pulled from the freezer.  Typically, I’ll purchase a roasted chicken from our local grocery store and cut out the breast meat to use in a meal early in the week.  Once the white meat is gone, I like to bag up the chicken remains and pop it in the freezer for just such an occasion.  While the original recipe called for a can of cream of mushroom soup, I wanted to make my version a little healthier, so I put the frozen chicken into a large stock pot with about 2 inches of water and set it to a low simmer until the chicken was soft and easy to pick off the bone.  Most of what was left on the bone was dark meat, which suited me just fine.  I transferred all the meat into a large casserole dish and tossed the bones in the trash.   I quickly cooked a bag of broccoli florets in the microwave and layered them on top of the chicken in the dish.  Now to make the sauce that would pull everything together.

The remaining liquid in the pot had a deep chicken broth smell and taste, so that was the beginning of my sauce.  I added one pat of butter and a few spoons full of flour and whisked everything together until the flour had been thoroughly cooked and all lumps were gone.   I slowly introduced the Montpelier wine (you could certainly use a white wine, but a lightly dry rose’ would handle the flavors a bit better, in my opinion) and added a handful of Monterey Jack cheese, whisking again until the cheese melted nicely and the wine was thoroughly incorporated.  I also added a few spoons of Miracle Whip Lite and a generous amount of curry powder.  NOTE: I like to sweet/tangy addition of Miracle Whip in this recipe, so if you really want to use traditional mayonnaise, I would suggest adding a touch of sugar.  Once your sauce is smooth, creamy, and tasty (you HAVE to taste-test the sauce to make sure your flavors are combined well), pour the sauce over the chicken/broccoli in your casserole dish.

Using the same stock pot that you used to warm your chicken (and then make your sauce) add some butter, olive oil, salt, crushed garlic, and pepper.  Allow the seasonings to blend over medium heat and then toss in a few hands full of bread crumbs.  Toast the bread crumbs until they have soaked up the seasoned butter/oil mixture and become a bit crispy.  Layer them on top of your casserole dish and plan to bake your final dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

You can absolutely plan to serve this with a simple green salad and some bread, but we love it just by itself.  The flavors combined nicely and everything tasted clean and fresh.  While it reminded me of my Aunt Treva’s Chicken Divan, it seemed a little healthier to me… maybe part of that is mental, but I do know that I was using fresh ingredients so I did feel better about how I made this version.

Try it with your own favorite childhood recipe… maybe you’ll come up with an updated recipe of your own!

Recipe: Stephanie’s French Toast Bites with Blueberry Wine Sauce

I have to start this recipe by saying that I love breakfast foods.  Eggs Benedict… pancakes… french toast… hash browns… sausage… waffles… bacon… you get the picture.  I could have breakfast-for-dinner at least once a week (although my husband much prefers to limit breakfast foods to “breakfast/brunch time”).  Because of this love affair I have with breakfast, I enjoy creating different sorts of recipes that showcase some of my favorite options, especially when I can incorporate wine into the mix.  The best of both worlds, right?

This recipe was created for my dear friend, Stephanie, who’s having a difficult time eating full-size servings of food these days.  To tempt her into eating breakfast one day, I came up with the idea of having small crouton-size bites of french toast that she could eat with her fingers or dip into a fruity sauce.  It was a big success, so I thought I would share this special recipe with everyone here.  I’ve named this recipe in her honor because without her, I wouldn’t have thought to make this delicious breakfast dish in such a unique manner.

I started by cutting up a few slices of whole wheat bread into bite-sized cubes.  Using my memory, I blended an egg (you can absolutely use egg substitute if you prefer), some milk (I like using almond milk if that’s on hand), some white wine (I used Vidal Blanc last time but use whatever you may have in your fridge… just decrease the amount of sugar if you’re using a sweeter wine), a sprinkling of sugar (as desired), a touch of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon (to taste).  Using a wire whisk, beat the egg mixture until it’s just becoming frothy.  I wanted something that would taste light, so I opted to whip the mixture until it was light and airy.  I then tossed the bread cubes in the egg mixture until all the cubes were soaked with the egg-y-yumminess.  When you’re ready to cook the toast bites, melt a pat of butter (and a touch of olive oil if you’d like) and transferred the toast bites to a very warm saute pan to cook.  Note: don’t crowd the pan, so feel free to do this in two sections if necessary.  


In the meantime, using a small saute pan (or sauce pan), melt a pat of butter and add a handful of blueberries,  Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand or prefer.  We had quarts of blueberries in the fridge, so they were the natural choice when I was creating the sauce to go along with these toast bites.  As the berries begin to warm and pop open, add some red wine (I went around the pan twice with a lovely Pinot Noir… again, because that’s what was in the fridge.  If I’d had a different red wine available, I might have changed to that one instead.  Use what you have and what you enjoy!) sprinkle some sugar to sweeten the sauce, and I decided to add a dash of cinnamon, to mirror the taste from the french toast bites themselves.  Allow the sauce to cook until it reduces and thickens.  If it gets too thick, add a little more wine… if it’s not thick enough, feel free to add a little more sugar.  This is a Use The Force sort of recipe… make it your own!

You’ll notice that there are also some bites of sausage on the serving plate in the photo – we had turkey sausage that needed to be used (and it was a good source of protein), so I browned the sausage until it was crispy and delicious.  It’s not a prerequisite… just another flavor to temp my dear friend into eating more than she had planned.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you need to expand your horizons when it comes to feeding your loved ones.  If someone isn’t feeling particularly well, feel free to play with your recipe to tempt them into eating something tasty and good for them.  It’s not about who’s doing the cooking or even about how they’re cooking… it’s about the love that is conveyed by the simple act of feeding people.

As you cook, may you enjoy the challenge and turn it into an expression of love.  That’s what it’s all about…

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award!

Wow… have I “arrived”?  I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award!  Now what do I do?  

While I honestly wasn’t sure what this award was, I was pretty stoked that someone… anyone… was reading my blog and liked it enough to recommend it to others.  The Liebster Awards is essentially an award by bloggers for bloggers, sort of a virtual chain letter. I really like that it’s based on peer-to-peer recognition, and it’s a way to help introduce great blogs to a larger audience. To accept the award, there are a few rules I now have to follow:
  • Pass the award on to 11 bloggers (and let them know)
  • Pose 11 questions (and not the same ones my nominator posed to me) to these chosen bloggers
  • Answer 11 questions posed by my nominator (and let her know)
  • Post 11 random facts about me.

So, thanks so much to Amy of Living a Good Food Life for nominating my blog…  now I will return the favor.  I am looking forward to following these 11 fantastic up-and-coming blogs:

My 11 questions for these bloggers are:

  • Why did you begin blogging and what makes you continue?
  • What is your favorite past time?
  • What’s your “guilty pleasure” food?
  • What do you do in your spare time, if you have any?
  • What are your three favorite things to make?
  • Do you believe that recipes are “directions” or “guidelines” in cooking?  Discuss…
  • Do you have a role model in your life?  If so, who and why is that person important to you?
  • Do you have a Bucket List (or more than one)?
  • If money were no object, where and how would you live?
  • Favorite TV show or movie?
  • What’s one thing that you would never eat?  Why?

Here are my answers to the 11 questions that Amy posed to me. Hopefully they make sense, since not all these blogs are food-based:

  • Why do you blog?   I blog because I was creating recipes at the winery where I work and I didn’t want to try and create a full-blown cookbook.  I also blog because it’s a way for me to share my love of food and wine with others.
  • What is your favorite vegetable?  I love asparagus, but am not so fond of the “after effects”.  I am a fan of most any vegetable, aside from lima beans (or any of those other “big flat beans”)
  • What is your favorite utensil in the kitchen?  My favorite utensil is my stick blender… it’s easy to use in a variety of ways and I can wash it quickly and put it away immediately.  My favorite basic utensil is a non-stick whisk… it’s essential!
  • What’s your closest grocery store?   Food Lion – I call it “Food Dog” because the symbol doesn’t look like a lion to me.
  • What were the last three things you cooked?  Homemade pull-apart rolls and Pretzel kaiser rolls, Kielbasa with sauteed onions, and Mango Risotto
  • Are you a baker or more of a savory cook?   I cook using The Force, so that lends itself to being a savory or sweet cook as opposed to the precise directions needed for most baking.
  • Chocolate desserts vs. fruit desserts: discuss.   I love chocolate desserts AND fruit desserts, but my husband is not a fan of either.  Since he’d prefer vanilla desserts, anything I bake that’s chocolate tends to go to work with me.  I’m not very good at making fruit desserts, so I lean toward making baked goods when I’m asked to bring something.
  • What is your favorite place to visit?  Hands down, Annapolis Maryland is my favorite place in the world.  Being there with my husband (and sons, if they’re able) is a true joy.
  • If money were no object, what restaurant would you most like to try?  I don’t have a “bucket list” for restaurants, so I’d have to ask my best friend, Lynne, for suggestions, but I believe that she would suggest that The French Laundry be at the top.  I’m just as happy and satisfied going to Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis.
  • Best food movie?  Mystic Pizza… the idea of creating a sauce that makes people happy seems pretty awesome.
  • Last meal: what would it be?  Seafood of any sort… I love it all.

And finally, here are 11 random facts about me:

  • I love wine… I may not drink it all the time or know everything about it, but I love it just the same.
  • I really hate Halloween – masks scare the life right out of me.
  • I used to be a Drug Addictions Counselor.
  • I love to write, whether it’s recipes (on this blog) or about life (on beatitudesofmylife).
  • I am too vain to use reading glasses in public, unless absolutely necessary.
  • I adore cooking, but hate to follow a recipe, so I use “The Force” and create new meals almost every day… but I am not a chef.
  • My husband is the very best, most amazing person I know and I thank God, every day, that he’s mine.
  • I get bored watching most “must see” movies and don’t like unnecessary violence.
  • I really love watching sports, especially with my family, but I do NOT like to watch baseball on TV.
  • I am nauseatingly patriotic… and proud of it.
  • I adore my job and feel blessed every time I go to work.
Ok… those weren’t as easy as I thought they’d be, but hopefully they give you an idea of who I am.  Good luck to all the bloggers I nominated. I hope you accept the award, and pass it on.

Recipe: Corey’s Cake (Chocolate wine cake with Irish Cream Frosting)

I had to say “farewell” to a friend and co-worker at the winery this week, so I made a special cake for her.  The recipe for the cake is already posted on this blog here (although I substituted the coffee with more wine), but it was the frosting that was special for this cake.  I gave Corey the option of frosting flavors (peanut butter, white chocolate, or irish cream) and this was her preference… so in deference to her, this cake is so named.

The frosting was a very simple one.  I used equal parts butter and butter-flavored shorteningconfectioner’s sugara touch of vanilla, and a few teaspoons of a recipe of homemade Irish Cream.  I had a basic frosting recipe as a template, but veered far enough off that it just seems easier and simpler to let you, dear reader, to your own devices.  Basically, I beat the butter and shortening together, added in a few cups of sugar and the vanilla, then added Irish Cream to taste.  Honestly, it was that simple…. and I love things that I can make “to taste”!

Farewell2CoreyI baked the cake a day before I needed to assemble the dessert.  This cake is seriously the easiest recipe to use…. it always comes out well, and I am never without the ingredients, since it is an “oil and vinegar chocolate cake” and doesn’t need milk, butter, or eggs.  I could have made the cake a few days or even weeks in advance, since this cake freezes (and thaws) beautifully.  Definitely a “keeper” in my book!  I whipped up the frosting before I went to work that day and put the cake together (see the top left-hand photo) in an easy-to-carry container.   To make it special, I used rainbow sprinkles to put a “C” on the top of Corey’s cake (see the top middle photo) and pressed them lightly into the frosting so that the sprinkles wouldn’t move as I transported the cake to our farewell.

I am really sad to see Corey leave, but must be excited for her and her husband as they embark upon a journey that will move them out of the state.   She has been a breath of fresh air at the winery with her enthusiasm and excitement.   It’s never easy to see people leave… I’m just grateful for Facebook and other modes of social media that will allow for continued connections.

Wishing every blessing to Corey and her husband… we’ll miss you!

Celebrating a Birthday

I am a self-declared goober when it comes to birthdays.  I truly believe that everyone should try and so something special on your birthday…. and that you should have cake. I know this is a wine blog, but I really think that birthdays are more about people for me (and the opportunity to have cake) and I wanted to share my opinion. It’s a little thing for me, but I really enjoy celebrating the fact that I’ve been on this earth for another year.  I’ve been given a gift of another birthday and, no matter the number, that alone should be worth celebrating.


Imagine my reaction when my colleague, A, wasn’t all that keen on celebrating his birthday.  I get that people don’t always want to celebrate if they’re missing family or going through a particularly rough patch in life, but I think that to *not* celebrate a birthday sometimes deprives others of the opportunity to show someone just how special they are, simply because they are.  Thankfully, another colleague, C, was on the ball and created the coolest way to celebrate our friend’s birthday…. a SCAVENGER HUNT!
C wrote out a bunch of really clever clues… I wish I was half as creative when it comes to creating such fun, rhyming clues.  She took a bunch of photos as she was placing the clues and then I followed along as A followed the clues to their ultimate reward… CANDY!
If you’re trying to come up with a fun, inventive way to cheer up a co-worker or celebrate a birthday with someone who isn’t too excited about celebrating in such a public way, this seems like the perfect fit.  Alexander (might as well name him, since it’s in the title of this collage) seemed to enjoy the spectacle of running around with two excited young helpers (seen in a few of the photos) and, I hope, he knows just how glad I am that he let us be “goobers” over his birthday.  Besides…. how many chances do you get to “put one over” on a friend… all in the name of celebrating a birthday.

Happy Birthday, Alexander!  Thanks for letting us celebrate you!